Elsewhere: Overflow Crowd Protests Proposed MUNI Cuts KCBS, We’re Live Blogging the MTA Board Meeting: Join Us Below Streetsblog, Angry riders voice opinions on proposed Muni cuts ABC7, Arriba! Class Warfare Erupts During Muni Hearing SF Weekly

4:34 PM:Facing a public outcry, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors today agreed to hold off on implementing further fare hikes to youth, seniors and disabled persons.

The agency had proposed the increases, along with a 10-percent service cut and other measures, to close a $16.9 million budget deficit. The deficit was revised down to $12.1 million earlier this month.

But after hours of public testimony today at City Hall, the board by a 6-1 vote agreed to drop a proposed increase to $30 for a monthly discount pass for youth, senior and disabled persons. The pass, currently $15, is already scheduled to jump to $20 on May 1, a move approved by the board last year.

“It’s a very compelling case that’s been made today, very touching,” said SFMTA board chair Tom Nolan.

Hundreds of people came to the meeting beginning at 9 a.m., and many were forced into overflow seating on another floor of City Hall.

Testimony at the hearing was at times angry, as board members were berated as ineffectual and out of touch with the working class. One man called them “cowards.”

“There’s nobody who wants to do this,” Nolan told them, but he added that the SFMTA “has a serious budget problem.”

Nolan suggested that only concessions by the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A could avert proposed cuts.

Walter Scott III, secretary and treasurer of TWU Local 250-A, which represents Muni drivers and other transit workers, told the board that his union doesn’t want fare hikes or layoffs.

“Before you cut service, you need to cut from the top,” Scott said.

Scott’s words were echoed by other public speakers, some of whom directly criticized SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford, who earns about $308,000 a year at his position. Ford’s salary recently dropped from about $315,000 after he agreed to a 2-percent pay cut.

“It is always the poor that pay for the luxuries of the rich, and the powerful,” said Maria Cristina Gutierrez, director of Companeros del Barrio, a Mission District preschool.

Gutierrez said the proposed fare hikes were “totally unfair,” and that no city official should earn more than $70,000 per year. She and others also suggested that businesses in the city be taxed to help pay for public transit.

“It’s despicable,” said Sarah Carlson of the ANSWER Coalition, an antiwar and anti-racism activist group that organized community members to attend today’s board meeting in protest of the proposed fare increases.

“MTA funding has been mismanaged for years now, and that includes the bloated salaries of upper management, and bonuses,” she said.

Board member Cameron Beach, who said he agreed the testimony was “extremely compelling,” maintained that the board was only “postponing increases, probably into the next fiscal year.” He was the single vote against dropping the fare hikes today.

The board did agree to the proposed service cuts, but pledged that cuts to the most heavily used lines at the busiest times would be the first to be restored should economic conditions improve.

In addition to changes to frequency and hours of service, the cuts include the elimination of about 230 positions, including Muni operators and other workers. The board also approved an increase in parking garage rates.

“It’s going to be a smaller system, but it needs to be a much more reliable system,” Ford said.

“The size of our system is outstripping our resources,” he said.

Ford said he hoped for service increases “as the economy comes around and sales tax comes around.”

“But it’s going to be a while before we get to that point,” he said.

The board approved the service cuts by a 4-3 vote.

Several board members also suggested SFMTA move forward with pilot programs for parking meter enforcement on nights and Sundays.

2:41 PM The MTA Board’s approved a 10% cut to Muni service. Board members Heinicke, Black, Oka, Nolan voted for, Beech, Lee, McCray against. However, as we noted below, there might be some hope for folks against these increases and cuts: the Board agreed that today’s meeting would be recessed, not adjourned, so the discussion on these issues can technically be resumed at the usual MTA board meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, since there were questions the Board had that the MTA could not answer today. The possibility remains that one or more board members could change their votes, which could mean that these agreed-upon increases and cuts could be denied by the board.

2:39 PM: MTA head Nathaniel Ford admits that “the actual opportunity to restore service is pretty far off” and that given the budget is not going to “get any better” and says that we “need to maintain the reliability of the system that’s out there — it’s going to be a smaller system…but a much more reliable system” and that “the size of our system is far outstripping our resources, so we’re trying to right-size the system here to a manageable level.” OK. But what about the Central Subway? I’m so confused by how Ford’s statements here jibe with that project. Anyone who wants to explain, conject, hit us in the comments.

2:30 PM: There seem to be a lot of unanswered questions around the issue of the premium pass for users of Express and Cable Car lines — SF MTA board chair Tom Nolan wants to vote today on it, with the option to revisit the issue on Tuesday. The board has approved the MTA’s proposal to require riders using those services to use the “A” premium Fast Pass (what you use now if you also ride BART) in a vote of 4-3, so as of May 1, if you want to ride all of Muni using a Fast Pass, you’ll be paying $70.

2:05 PM: The SF MTA Board has agreed to “eliminate from discussion” the MTA’s proposals to increase fees for Senior, Youth, and Disabled Fast Passes. This does not impact the already-scheduled price increase to these passes to $20 on May 1. They have yet to vote on the rest of the proposal.

10:52 AM (BCN): An overflow crowd has gathered this morning at a meeting of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors to protest proposed fare hikes and service cuts.

The SFMTA proposed the cuts to close an estimated $16.9 million budget deficit. Agency officials this morning revised the estimated deficit to $12.1 million but are still proposing the same cuts and fare hikes.

Among the proposals are increases to fares for youth, seniors and disabled persons, which appear to have drawn the most negative reaction.

“There’s nobody who wants to do this,” said SFMTA board chair Tom Nolan, but he added that the SFMTA “has a serious budget problem.”

Nolan suggested that only concessions by Transport Workers Union Local 250-A could avert proposed cuts.

Walter Scott III, secretary and treasurer of TWU Local 250-A, told the board that his union doesn’t want fare hikes or layoffs.

“Before you cut service, you need to cut from the top,” Scott said.

The agency is also proposing a 10 percent cut to Muni service, as well as increases to parking garage rates.

Any fare increases would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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